By Thomas Chatterton Williams. A drian Piper, the conceptual artist and analytic philosopher, is almost as well known for what she has stopped doing as for what she has done. By , she had given up alcohol, meat and sex. In , she took a leave of absence from her job at Wellesley, sold her home on Cape Cod and shipped all of her belongings to Germany. It was accompanied by a news bulletin announcing her retirement. In , she announced that she would no longer talk to the press about her work. Such inflexibility has done little to damage her standing in the art world.
Alongside a Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale, which Piper won in , this is among the very highest honors the art world can proffer. In the last message she had sent me, about three weeks earlier, she refused to speak to me on the record unless she or her archivist could independently fact-check the article before publication. She suggested, as an alternative, that I consult her website and extensive body of published writing, an incalculable number of academic articles, essays and books.
But I had already read many of those, and they had left me convinced that she has been quietly conducting, from that vexed and ever-expanding blot on the American fabric where white and black bleed into each other, one of the smartest, funniest and most profound interrogations of the racial madness that governs and stifles our national life that I had ever encountered. There are several hypnotizing videos that show nothing more than her dancing.
I spoke with Cornelia Butler, the former chief curator of drawings at MoMA who conceived of and co-curated the show, and she explained that Piper has been a key figure in numerous distinct movements, from conceptual and minimalist to protofeminist art. This would extend her sphere of influence to Mark Bradford and Glenn Ligon, but the case can be made that everyone from Cindy Sherman to Carrie Mae Weems to Barbara Kruger should be included in it, too. And it felt like it was really a practice that needed to be somehow brought together.
You have the feeling that her role was essential. Yet Piper, whose voice and wildly charismatic likeness at various ages and in various guises permeated the building in numerous recordings, self-portraits and video installations, was palpably absent from her own historic achievement. They had an identical model in New York, Cherix explained.
Every work was reduced to a tiny little illustration. I envisioned Piper all alone with her meticulous facsimile, aware of every detail but so many thousands of miles away. The severity of her self-exile from the United States struck me as gratuitous. How, I later wrote to ask her, had she spent the day of her opening?
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She wrote back quickly. I kept reminding myself that this was the price of the choices I had made, and that I stood by those choices. Her earliest works — mostly highly detailed drawings from the s — reveal the hand of a precociously skilled draftswoman. Her clean, geometric sculptures radiate the sophisticated restraint of Donald Judd. Early on, Piper was influenced primarily by the conceptual art of Sol LeWitt, a lifelong friend and one-time neighbor of hers when she lived on the Lower East Side.
Piper says that these people were sometimes openly disappointed when they met her. Not everyone in the art world believes she could have ever been so innocent, which has made her a controversial figure. Her pieces are conversational and confrontational, proceeding from the premise that racism is always something interpersonal before it can be institutional or structural. Because the anger is justified, one instinctively feels guilty.
One feels both unjustly accused or harassed, and also remorseful and ashamed at having been the sort of person who could have provoked the accusation. While in no way excusing anti-black racism, Piper nevertheless hit upon, a quarter of a century ago, a means of understanding, at least in part, the tortuous psychology of white reaction.
It is a means rooted in an unusual dual perspective that feels particularly useful in an era defined by a fracturing of collective understanding: the embrace of identitarian essentialism and rising reactionary populism. Or one can detach oneself emotionally and distance oneself physically from the aggressors, from the perspective of which their personal flaws and failures of vision, insight and sensitivity loom larger, making it easier to forgive them for their human imperfections but harder to relate to them as equals. If I tell you who I am, you become nervous and uncomfortable, or antagonized.
And why should I have to do that? Because if someone can look and sound like me and still be black, then no one is safely, unquestionably white. No one. The work is simple, nothing more elaborate than a phalanx of chairs arranged in front of a defensively upturned desk with a TV mounted behind it. At some point I stepped back to photograph the installation. As I pressed my thumb to unlock my phone, I contemplated, as I often do, the wallpaper, a favorite snapshot of my 4-year-old daughter: ivory skin, clear blue eyes, an ever-so-incongruent puff of golden curls levitating above her neckline.
In the not-so-distant past, she — like my father and me, though not like my wife or my mother — would have been enslaved by people who looked just like her. The day after the opening, I wrote to Piper again. For anyone who is doubtful of the sheer absurdity of racial categorization and the porousness of our supposed boundaries, the Piper family history can be instructive. Her father, Daniel, received two separate and contradictory birth certificates. Daniel Sr.
But in his senior year, when he made the mistake of asking out a white classmate, he was publicly shamed and removed from the basketball team. Such self-presentation was a defensive reaction to the dehumanizing stereotypes prevalent throughout the culture. Theirs was simply to falsify the stereotype. In fact, the job that Piper invented for herself was completely sui generis. There are very few people who have experienced this kind of early success in one field who would willingly submit to the demands and diminutions of advancement in a second.
Yet Piper could not escape her polymathy, and in she arrived at Harvard to pursue a Ph. On her first day, Willard Van Orman Quine, one of the most famous and influential philosophers of the 20th century, approached her. In one remark, Quine simultaneously insulted Piper — implying, condescendingly, that her inclusion in such a rarefied space was predicated, at least in part, on the fact that she was legitimately black — while also invalidating her supposed racial credentials.
In so doing, he had demeaned what she believed was the sacred life of the mind and stripped her of the confidence to trust that she would be perceived on his turf as an individual and not a social curiosity. Piper ended up graduating at the top of her program, and the mark of her training is evident even in informal interactions. She is an extraordinarily formidable e-mailer, picking apart casual correspondence with the cool ferocity of a world-class logician; it sometimes felt as if Ludwig Wittgenstein was at the other end of the computer.
I would be interested in learning her views on these matters. Piper is notorious in the art press for submitting and sometimes self-publishing excoriating letters to the editor when she feels a writer has misrepresented her work or her thinking. In , she famously eviscerated the art critic Donald Kuspit in an open letter that became a kind of performance in its own right.
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I did not know what to expect. The Adrian Piper Research Archive Foundation Berlin occupies an airy high-ceilinged flat in the gentrifying immigrant neighborhood of Wedding. It was mostly vacant when I visited, because the work had all been shipped to New York, but in one of the rooms off the entrance there was that meticulous scale-model of the MoMA retrospective. In person she appeared deceptively Lilliputian.
Dressed professorially in slacks and a blazer, with smooth beige skin, neatly trimmed hair and rimless glasses, her very Americanness was accentuated by her Continental surroundings. Kino finds such a large pearl that it attracts attention from all the villagers. After Coyotito is cured, Juana and Kino end up fighting off thieves, robbers, and themselves when the greed and lust for the pearl become unbearable.
Juana decides to go home to gather their belongings while Kino goes to ready the canoe. However, they are each met with disaster: Kino finds the canoe destroyed and Juana finds the house has been set on fire. Narrowly escaping, the family hides at Juan Tomas's house until it is safe to leave for the capital to sell the pearl.
The family leaves to travel up the mountain to get to the capital city. Kino realizes that they are being followed and he tries to create false trails for the trackers.
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When he finally finds the trackers he attempts to attack them. Yet, at the same moment, Coyotito and a gunshot are heard. After Kino kills the trackers and rushes back to the cave, he finds that his son has been shot. Carrying their dead child, they emerge from the mountain back at their village, where the community silently looks on. Kino then takes the pearl and throws it as hard as he can back into the ocean. Plus de Story-boards rebeccaray. Five Act Structure - Romeo and Juliet.
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